The pre-made meals that Meals on Wheels People delivers to homebound seniors in Clark County will soon be distributed from a central warehouse in Clark County.
Currently, home-delivered meals are made at the nonprofit’s central kitchen in Portland’s Multnomah Village and delivered by truck five days weekly to Clark County. Clark County is the only county in Washington served by Meals on Wheels People.
Spokeswoman Julie Piper Finley said the nonprofit wanted to be more efficient while taking into consideration Interstate 5 Bridge closures and inclement weather that can delay bistate deliveries.
Menus and meals will remain the same across the metro area. Meals will be trucked weekly from Portland to Clark County.
Several Clark County employees — staff who worked at congregate dining centers and the nonprofit’s sole restaurant, The Diner Vancouver — have been working at the central kitchen during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’ll transfer back to Clark County when the new facility in north Vancouver is up and running. The nonprofit did not disclose the address, as the lease has not been signed.
The news comes as the nonprofit finds itself serving more people due to the pandemic. Between March and July of 2019, 670 people in Clark County received 49,808 meals. During that same five-month period this year, 971 people received 99,150 meals; that’s a 45 percent increase in clients and a 99 percent increase in meals. (The nonprofit now provides seven meals in its once-a-week delivery rather than the five it delivered before the pandemic.)
Congregate dining centers closed in mid-March. Anyone who dined at a center was offered home-delivered meals, which accounts for part of the increase.
“We’ve had a lot of questions from people about when we will reopen. It’s not going to be for the foreseeable future,” Piper Finley said.
Meals on Wheels People also has new clients who have never used the service. Across the metro area, the nonprofit serves 8,000 meals daily, up from 5,000 before the pandemic.
Each weekly delivery includes a mix of fresh and frozen meals along with bags of fresh fruit, loaves of bread and quarts of milk. When meal distribution shifts to Clark County, clients should not notice a difference, Piper Finley said. Volunteers will pick up meals from the new distribution site.
Meals on Wheels People is also moving out of the Battle Ground Community Center, where it ran a dining center and where volunteers pick up meals for home delivery. Since meals aren’t being served there, it didn’t make financial sense to continue the lease, Piper Finley said.
Meals on Wheels People may return to the community center once dining centers can reopen.
“We are sad that Meals on Wheels chose to leave the community center,” Mattie Buckmiller, Battle Ground’s recreation and facilities supervisor, said in a news release. “We are, however, in contact with senior groups and organizations, even during the closure, to develop even more social opportunities for seniors for when our doors reopen.”
The reopening of community and senior centers depends on Gov. Jay Inslee’s Safe Start plan, which says gatherings with 10 or more people and full reopenings of recreational facilities won’t happen until Phase 4. Clark County is in Phase 2.